How to Get Results from Your HR Transformation

By Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood | January 24, 2023

Key Takeaways:

  • HR transformation underlies organization effectiveness.
  • Utilizing Organization Guidance System (OGS): Human Resources, HR transformations shift from a descriptive approach to a prescriptive approach.

The crises of our day (global coronavirus pandemic, racial and civil unrest, global immigration, economic uncertainty, political squabbles, and personal and emotional malaise) have accentuated the importance of human resource issues to help an organization succeed in the marketplace.

Numerous HR innovations in programs, processes, practices, and digital apps have occurred under the rubric of HR transformation. We believe it is time to offer guidance on the extent to which organization effectiveness initiatives in talent, capability, and leadership deliver results to employees, strategies, customers, investors, and communities. We have developed and offered a free Organization Guidance System (OGS) to guide the portfolio of these efforts.

HR transformation underlies organization effectiveness. We have written books and hundreds of articles, collected data from over 100,000 respondents, offered hundreds of workshops, and consulted on how to deliver HR transformation. We have evolved the study of HR transformation into four stages of maturity and nine domains of action.

Figure 1 provides a comprehensive template for assessing overall HR Transformation along 9 domains for each of the 4 levels of maturity (36 cells overall).

Figure 1
HR Transformation:
4 Stages of HR Maturity Across 9 HR Domains
Domain Stages of HR Maturity
Essential Foundation Functional (best practice) Strategic Outside-In
HR Reputation

What is HR known for?

HR Compliance HR Functional Excellence Strategic HR HR Outside-In
HR Customers

Who are HR's customers?

We are employee champions We are advisors to managers We are strategists We are business proponents
HR Purpose

What is our HR mission? Why do we exist?

We exist to do the basics well We exist to design and deliver innovative HR practices We exist to partner with business leaders to help make strategy happen We exist to add business value that impacts external stakeholders
HR Design

How is the HR department organized?

HR is an efficient organization HR organizes to offer specialized solutions HR organizes to match the business organization HR organizes to build market value
Organization Capability

How does HR facilitate the right organization?

HR delivers organization role clarity HR delivers organization systems HR delivers organizational capabilities HR delivers ecosystem for external stakeholders
HR Analytics

How can HR use information to make better decisions?

HR Scorecards or Dashboards HR Predictive Analytics HR Strategic Interventions HR Guidance for Stakeholder Value
HR Practices

How do we create and deploy HR practices?

HR delivers essential work HR delivers leading-edge practices HR delivers practices to enable strategy HR delivers HR solutions that benefit external stakeholders
HR Professionals

What HR professionals need to be, know, and do to be effective?

Trusted Operators Functional Experts Credible Partners Engaged Business Partners
HR Relationships

How does HR go about doing its work?

HR individual contributors HR team players HR as members of business teams HR stakeholder partners

Our point of view on HR Transformation is NOT limited to these 36 cells, but the extent to which the work in these 36 cells delivers results. We believe that describing what the maturity and activity of HR can be dramatically advanced by prescribing which of the stages of maturity and domains of activity should be focused on.

Report Guidance on Human Resource Transformation

After 18 months of collecting Human Resources data for the Organization Guidance System (OGS), we can now estimate how investments in each of the nine domains of HR will impact business results. 

The results from the Organization Guidance System are startling! First, we had assumed that foundational/essential HR work was not as critical for results as the strategic and outside in HR work.

The results illustrated in Figure 2 inform the effectiveness of HR transformation. We report the global findings by the nine domains of HR activity. Please note these results are aggregated across the global companies we surveyed. Individual organization results will vary based on specific needs and desired targeted outcomes.

  • Investing in HR Design (#4) did not have a high impact on any of the business results. We still find that most “HR transformation” work obsesses over HR design.
  • Investing in HR Relationships (#9) had the highest impact on financial, customer, and strategic results.
  • Investing in HR Reputation and HR Purpose had a high impact on all of the business results. 
  • Each result (column B, C, D, E, F) is shaped by different HR domains. 
Figure 2
Nine Domains of HR Activity and Results
Domains of HR A
Global Mean
Strategic / Business
Social Citizenship
HR Reputation 3.13          
HR Customers 3.37          
HR Purpose 3.42          
HR Design 3.17          
Organization Capability 3.17          
HR Analytics 2.87          
HR Practices 2.99          
HR Professionals 3.26          
HR Relationships 3.31          


These findings from OGS: HR dramatically shift the discussion of HR transformation from what is done to what should be done. The implications of this human resource guidance are profound. Rather than randomly create innovative HR initiatives, business and HR leaders can use the Organization Guidance System to receive rigorous guidance on where to focus for results.

Read the Organization Guidance System results of the three other pathways: Talent, Organization Capabilities and Leadership.

Learn more about the Organization Guidance System and contact us to get started.

Dave has published over 30 books on leadership, organization, and human resources. These ideas have shaped how people and organizations deliver value to customers, investors, and communities. He has consulted and done research with over half of the Fortune 200 and worked in over 80 countries.  He has received numerous public recognitions and lifetime awards for his work. 

About the author

Norm Smallwood is a partner and co-founder of The RBL Group. His research and consulting focuses on helping organizations increase business value by building organization, leadership, and people capabilities that measurably impact market value. He has written extensively about leadership and organization effectiveness in eight books and over a hundred articles. 

About the author
The RBL Group

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